March 23, 2011
Ronald Reagan: Innovation Hawk?
Twenty-three years ago, Ronald Reagan addressed the nation to defend federal investments in research and development, even amidst dire budgetary constraints, prefacing the innovation hawks of today. The following is excerpted from Reagan's 1988 national address:
Federal funding for science is in jeopardy because of budget constraints. That's why it's my duty as President to draw its importance to your attention and that of Congress.
...The remarkable thing is that although basic research does not begin with a particular practical goal, when you look at the results over the years, it ends up being one of the most practical things government does... Major industries, including television, communications, and computer industries, couldn't be where they are today without developments that began with this basic research.
...one thing is certain: If we don't explore, others will, and we'll fall behind. This is why I've urged Congress to devote more money to research. After taking out inflation, today's government research expenditures are 58 percent greater than the expenditures of a decade ago. It is an indispensable investment in America's future.
...Some say that we can't afford it, that we're too strapped for cash. Well, leadership means making hard choices, even in an election year. We've put our research budget under a microscope and looked for quality and cost effectiveness. We've put together the best program for the taxpayers' dollars. After all, the American tradition of hope is one we can't afford to forget.
It's not often that we agree with Ronal Reagan's policy prescriptions. But even Reagan recognized the difference between productive government investment and government spending, and called for increased investments in science and innovation even at a time of tight fiscal concerns. Reagan's speech stands in stark contrast to the ideology of modern-day Congressional Republicans, who continue to push cuts to critical federal investments in energy innovation, wholly disregarding the critical role that federal investments in innovation have played in driving the nation's economic growth.